Below is the transcript from today's teleconference with NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver Rick Crawford (driver of the No. 14 Circle Bar Truck Corral Ford). Crawford, a Mobile, Ala., native, is looking forward to the inaugural NASCAR Craftsman...
Below is the transcript from today's teleconference with NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver Rick Crawford (driver of the No. 14 Circle Bar Truck Corral Ford). Crawford, a Mobile, Ala., native, is looking forward to the inaugural NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race in his home state.
Crawford is currently fifth in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series points standings -- 321 points behind leader Todd Bodine. So far this season, Crawford has one win (Indianapolis), four top-five and 11 top-10 finishes.
Crawford and the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series return to action next Saturday, Oct. 7, for the inaugural NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Talladega Superspeedway. The Talladega 250 is scheduled to start at 2:15 p.m. CT.
Q: Rick, this is the first time that the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series has raced at Talladega Superspeedway. Talk about how much racing at Talladega and in your home state means to you.
CRAWFORD: It's big. Ever since I started testing there in 1993, I've learned to look at some signs on the building and it's big and bold. You have to realize that when the place was built, the first race was 1969. My uncle and grandfather had been members of NASCAR, NASCAR owner and driver, for quite a few years. They took me there as a level headed young boy. So when I finally got to Talladega to watch, it was like, well, one day if I'm a race car driver, I'd like to do this. I'd like to race here. So the American dream is finally coming true.
Q: You've tested a lot at Talladega, and you have won in a truck at Daytona. Tell the media and the fans what they can expect out of a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Talladega.
CRAWFORD: That's only touching the tip of the iceberg if I could tell you what to expect out of a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race. When I say 2.66 miles, newly paved, fastest speedway in the world -- excitement comes to mind but that's an understatement because as a Ford driver, we're going to be making some bold moves. To let the fans know what to expect is hard to do because we reach grass sometimes, we have a lot of height, we have sparks, we have flames. It can really be exciting at times.
Q: After racing at Daytona, do you think it will be a restless night the night before the race?
CRAWFORD: Only in the concentration camp. Like Daytona is. When you go to Daytona, that's our first race of the season. It's the 'Super Bowl,' like they say of Cup racing, but it's the 'Super Bowl' of the truck series also. It's pretty restless at night just because the concentration level is so high. It's not necessarily thinking about being safe and what you should do when. It's a chess match. You're putting yourself in position to win a race and how do you do that? Not necessarily the fastest truck wins, but who puts themselves in the best position to make the last move that counts. You're right about Daytona and Talladega being different because Talladega's finish line is a half- mile further down than Daytona's is. So if I made the same move that I made in 2003 to win Daytona, it wouldn't have won the race at Talladega
Q: What do you think the pole speed is going to be? What are we looking at speed wise?
CRAWFORD: Well, I've gotten some information back. The ARCA series tested there a couple of days ago. I got some information -- me and Kevin 'Cowboy' Starland (our crew chief) -- got some information on how their speeds were, the condition of the track and just some information on what's going on at Talladega. A pickup truck runs better when paired up with a few other trucks because we don't have the aerodynamic package of a car. Naturally, your qualifying speed is going to be low, but your race-together speeds might even be faster than Cup. So, what we're looking at is probably the mid-180s close to the 190 miles per hour range.
Q: Will that be the fastest that the trucks have run?
CRAWFORD: I think at the beginning of the series, we ran in the upper 180 bracket. I do know drafting speeds have been over 190 miles per hour.
Q: When you first heard Talladega was coming on the schedule, what were the first thoughts in your mind?
CRAWFORD: Sweet Home Alabama. I get to go home again. It's been one of those places where I would say the Alabamians, the Alabaman Gang, have shared a lot of success at. To be at a race track where idols that have had an important role in your career such as Red Farmer, Bobby Allison, Donnie Allison, Neil Bonnett, Davey Allison, Clifford Allison -- I could go on and on and on naming drivers from Alabama that have shared a lot of success at Talladega. It means a lot to me. If it wasn't for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, then I probably wouldn't have that opportunity.
Q: Could you compare this challenge in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series right now going into Talladega for the first time to past challenges in racing career?
CRAWFORD: I can compare the same challenge to the first time we went to Daytona, the first time we went to California Speedway or the first race ever I had in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, which was in 1997 at the Disney World Speedway which nobody else usually raced at. Here we are among 76 trucks trying to make a 36-truck field for my first time ever. That was quite an experience in itself. Going into Talladega, with the mindset that we have the right equipment, the right crew, the right crew chief, we actually can load the hauler and go to Talladega with the opportunity to win the race. That's important for me, but also in my home state, that's even better.
Q: Before Michigan you said that Daytona was for the team, Texas was for your owner Mr. Mitchell and that Michigan was for your crew chief. Is this race at Talladega for you?
CRAWFORD: Well, I guess so. I'll take it of course. We're a team effort. We win together, we lose together, we repair trucks together. It's a total team effort. That statement was actually made by my owner, Tom Mitchell of West Texas. Winning at ORP (O'Reilly Raceway Park in Indianapolis) this year, Mr. Mitchell said 'Hey, that was pretty close to Michigan so we'll give that one to Cowboy.' And he said, 'Now, we're going to get yours next.' So that's pretty good. We have one more shot at Texas, so maybe I can deliver Texas to Mr. Mitchell. But right now, Talladega is just around the corner and that is what I am going for.
Q: You mentioned a lot of the drivers from Alabama who have had success at Talladega. But it's been a long time since we have had an Alabama driver win. What if you won this race? What would it mean to you?
CRAWFORD: After Daytona (in 2003), I mentioned to you that you could put a period after Rick Crawford's career winning at Daytona. I don't have to win a championship. I don't have to win another race. God didn't say, Rick Crawford's going to win 20 more races before I take him. You don't know what's going to happen tomorrow. You don't know what's going to happen on the way home from work. But it would mean a lot to me. It would mean a lot to the people of Alabama, I think. It would mean a lot to this team to be able to win at Talladega. Like I said to Cowboy, I want the baddest truck on the planet. So, we've got a Ford F-Series pickup and we're going to Talladega to try and win this thing. When you look at the schedule past Daytona, Talladega is circled with a big red pen so like I say, coming home to Sweet Home Alabama -- that means a lot to me.
Q: Do you have a particular Talladega memory as a fan that sticks out in your mind?
CRAWFORD: Yes, I do. I was in the stands one day, this was probably in 1973. I was old enough to drive myself to Talladega so now you can date me. So I drove myself to Talladega and I'm sitting in the stands -- what they used to call the OV Hill Grandstands, that was the covered grandstands on the front straight away. I was watching the cars, 'Gentleman, Start Your Engines,' and they cranked them all up. One car didn't crank, and they mentioned it on the loud speakers. The car was owned by Jimmy Crawford, so it got my curiosity up. So I was checking it out. It was a black car. I remember it distinctly. It was a black car owned by Jimmy Crawford. It was sponsored by Eastern Airlines that day, and the guy who was driving it was Dick Brooks. And the number on it was one of my numbers that I used to like in racing, driven by the late Fireball Roberts, which was 22. So, I started watching this car run and keeping up with it throughout the day. It finally cranked up by the way. It cranked up. The Die Hard wasn't dead -- and you can buy those at Sears. But anyway, it fired up, the car went on and Dick Brooks won the Talladega 500 that day in that car.
I've always liked the under dog and the unsponsored guys. That's a really fond memory.
Q: Are you expecting a lot of friends and family to come up from Mobile for the race?
CRAWFORD: I even had a call this morning from the guy who used to make my glasses back when I was 20 or 21 years old. I haven't talked to him in a while because I have had LASIK surgery and contacts for quite a while. He called and I'm like, 'You want to come to a race?' I think he's got on the same Greyhound that most of them have gotten on to get to Talladega next weekend. We should have a big time. There's a lot of friends, family, people that supported me back when I run along the Gulf Coast that are coming to watch us run.
Q: Is that extra incentive, extra pressure? Is it a distraction?
CRAWFORD: I look at it as I'm an entertainer. I'm in the entertainment business. If we don't put on a great show on the track for the fans in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, then the fans won't show up to watch us run. We were a stand-alone event last weekend in Las Vegas -- over 65,000 folks showed up. So, the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series puts on a great show. It has a great big fan base out there, and you probably could see a record crowd at Talladega.
Q: You have four Toyotas in front of you in the points standings? Can you chase them down and take over the lead by Ford Championship Weekend in Homestead-Miami or even win it down there?
CRAWFORD: I am surrounded by Toyotas. There are some really good teams out there, some great drivers and they are doing their homework. I think I have a shot at winning the title, but Todd (Bodine) and Johnny (Benson) both need to have some problems for us to get back in the hunt for the top spot. We're focused on running each and every week. If I do that and keep running good, the points are going to handle themselves for us. They have to do what they have to do to lose the championship. I'm out here to win it. If I do my job and this team does their job and if it's in the cards that are dealt, then we have a shot at it. But if we don't, we haven't run second in effort.
Q: When the Cup guys go to Talladega, they always talk about the "Big One." This is the first time the trucks have been there. You guys beat and bang and go after each other on a normal half-mile track, what do you think is going to happen at Talladega?
CRAWFORD: I have no idea. To predict a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race would be harder than asking 'Jimmy the Greek' to win all the football games on Sunday. It's unreal. The crop of veterans that we have and ex-Cup drivers that we have coming back to the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series to extend their careers is amazing. What we've got to look at today is we have 15 to 20 rookies -- that's a number that's unheard of -- that's going to be running at Talladega. But don't underestimate them at all because the rookies have their place in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. They have earned it somewhere. And we've got a guy that's running up front in the rookie race who didn't even know what side the steering wheel was on. He's from Australia (Marcos Ambrose), and he's doing a heck of a job. He's a real deal.
Q: Any final thoughts as the Series heads to Talladega and the home stretch?
CRAWFORD: Sometimes, people take Rick Crawford as a guy who is laid back and just takes racing one at a time. If we do good, fine. If we go home, fine. And we'll be back next week to try and win again. But he's taking things very serious today -- this time, day and event. A lot of people don't know that because they get a different impression. But I take each and every race as it is very important, and I'm looking forward to going to Talladega because as far as I'm concerned, it is probably the most important race I have ever run.